Bali: North Korea agreed to hold talks with the South on the sidelines of Asia's largest security gathering on Friday and named a new envoy to stalled disarmament talks, officials said.

The North, which stands to get badly needed aid and other concessions if it returns to six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programme, has indicated in recent months that it might be ready.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun told a top Chinese official on Friday that veteran diplomat Ri Yong Ho had been appointed the country's top envoy to the negotiations.

A senior US official, speaking on condition he not be named, said the North also had agreed to hold working-level talks with the South today, but did not indicate who would be taking part.

It would be the "first big interaction" between the two sides in many months, he said, and could lead to increased open interaction in the months to come.

Disarmament talks have been stalled since 2008, when North Korea walked out to protest international criticism of a prohibited long-range rocket launch. Tensions between the North and South have remained testy ever since.

But top diplomats from all six countries involved in the negotiations - the United States, China, Russia, Japan and North and South Korea - were attending the ASEAN Regional Forum raising hopes of a breakthrough.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi would discuss their "mutual desire for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula" on Friday. Yang agreed, saying this was the time to unite.

"Anything we can do together to promote a better atmosphere and good dialogue among the parties concerned and to restart the six-party talks would be in the best interests of peace, stability and security of the region," he said.

South Korea and the United States say North Korea must demonstrate a commitment to denuclearization before any negotiations can resume. Seoul also wants a show of regret for two deadly incidents South Korea blames on the North: the sinking of a warship a year ago and an artillery attack on a front-line island in November.

The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953. The US has 28,500 troops in the South - a presence that Pyongyang cites as a main factor behind its need to build a nuclear programme.

(Agencies)